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Local Marketing Strategies

The pandemic has fundamentally shifted how consumers live, work, and shop. In the wake of massive small business closures, people have invested more in their communities, driven by a desire to keep local treasures alive.

So how do you connect with audiences who have reshaped their lives in the pandemic, and have in turn reshaped the market?

Let’s start by examining how consumer habits have changed in order to understand the full scope of what local marketing looks like now and into the future. We’ll then explore paid and organic outreach strategies so you can reach your customers in a targeted, strategic, and cost-effective manner. In a world of community focus, it’s time to own your neighborhood.

Purchase Habits Through the Pandemic and Beyond

In a nutshell, shopping is becoming more local, mindful, and digital. Lockdown has given consumers plenty of time to reflect on their consumption, which has helped pave a future landscape of sustainability and community-focused shopping.

Shopping locally takes different forms for consumers, including supporting neighborhood stores, buying national products, or purchasing artisan products that represent creativity and authenticity. We’ve compiled a wealth of statistics from Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Research report on consumer behavior that illustrates these shifts.

According to Accenture’s findings, up to 58% of consumers are shopping closer to neighborhood stores with 79% expressing intent to continue this behavior into the longer term. Similarly, 56% are buying more locally sourced products with 84% planning to continue this behavior into the longer term.

This study also yielded some unique insights into demand for local brands. The following purchase changes reinforce how consumers are community-focused:

  • Local brand purchases have increased by 25%
  • National brand purchases have increased by 20%
  • Global brand purchases have decreased by 8%

People are online consuming media roughly 12 hours a day, which means it’s invaluable to know their media preferences and to leverage the right tools to stay in front of them. Media consumption has increased across all demographics, with a significant increase in live time shifted TV (DVR, online streaming, etc.). The most growth, however, has been in smart phone usage on an app or the web.

Now that we have a snapshot of how consumers are behaving, let’s explore the paid and organic ways to stay top-of-mind.

Addressable Targeting (Addressable Geofencing)

Similar to how direct mail is sent to specific households to target based on interest, this hyper-targeted method allows you to pick and choose households you want to reach. As the name implies, this process involves pairing household data with addressable data in order to create a unique marketing profile of each person in a household.

This approach maximizes the efficiency of your campaign rather than targeting the wrong audience. For example, a four-year university would be wasting marketing dollars by targeting a retired couple’s residence. Instead, you would match specific targeting criteria to a household with high school juniors and seniors.

The effectiveness of this medium is also measurable since you can match the address you served ads to with store traffic. Even better, customers can be served ads on any device rather than through just one medium.

Competitive Conquesting

It’s no secret that customers aren’t always loyal. Consumer share is often split across many different competitors, which means you must devise ways to get them back.

An effective solution is competitive conquesting, which is targeting customers specifically on purchase behavior, location data, and device ID.

This process consists of casting a virtual net around every competitor location for when your customers walk onto those premises. Through the device ID on a visitor’s smart phone, the system can add that consumer to the audience pool once they enter a competitor location. Afterward that person will start seeing ads for your brand, and ads are delivered to that device ID until the customer returns to your store’s location.

From there, you can track that the device was at a competitor location and made it to your store after viewing advertising. With such granular capabilities, you can make advertising specific to each location and competitor too!

Paid Social Media

Since people have understandably spent a lot of their attention on their phones throughout the pandemic, their social media platforms of choice reveal a wealth of insights. Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have a lot of data about how consumers spend their time on and off those platforms.

So how do you make all this data work for you? A great way to leverage Facebook and Instagram as advertising platforms is to use their Custom Audience and Lookalike Audience features.

Custom Audiences consist of highly defined groups of people who already have a relationship with your business, such as past customers, people who have visited your website, or people who have installed your app.

Utilizing Custom Audiences also enables you to create Look-Alike Audiences, which are groups of people with traits matching your current customers, and therefore highly likely to be interested in your services. You can upload a list of customers you’ve done business with before, and then Facebook and Instagram makes sure those people are seeing your ads.

Paid Search (Google Search Ads)

Worldwide, 86% searches are conducted on Google—it’s the go-to place to search or research a product. Brands like Apple show up right at the top of paid search results for their own branded (company) terms, since consumers with a brand preference would type “Apple watch” as opposed to “watch” into Google.

However, what if you don’t have brand equity like a massive company like Microsoft where people would type in the name of the brand before the service? Instead, you market to people at the beginning of their research process when they might not have high recognition of your brand but are looking for a product or service that you offer.

This process involves bidding on keywords, in this case the Google Ads platform. Then when someone types in a query like “plumber near me” your business can show up at the top of organic search results, even above businesses that are more well-known.

Thus, even if your website is not currently ranking high in the search results organically, you can pay your way to the top with an ad to earn business.

This tactic is especially strong since people have intent when searching on Google. If you needed a dentist, then you wouldn’t be searching for HVAC services. It’s critical to capture people in those beginning stages of a purchase when they have a need but don’t know who to enlist to solve their problem yet.

Local Listings

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. This means it’s essential to invest in online location listings so that you can be easily found when someone is searching nearby for a business like yours.

To start this process, we highly recommend verifying and maintaining your Google My Business (GMB) listing. By claiming the page, your information shows up on Google Maps and in relevant searches.

When you conduct a local search, such as “pizza near me”, then critical information such as hours and addresses is pulled from your GMB account and displayed as a listing at the top of search results (these local Google listings make up what is called the Local Pack). The more information you upload, such as photos, special announcements, and products, the easier it will be for you to rank locally without the assistance of paid advertising.

As a note on GMB, it’s essential for information to be accurate, especially if you have multiple brick-and-mortar locations because small variations (such as St. instead of Street across all listings) will affect how your business is returned in local results.

Organic Social Media

Owning your neighborhood means having the people closest to you seeing content, and social media is primed for that with or without paid efforts.

For instance, you might see a post from an acquaintance if they were at an event close to you because Facebook recognizes when devices are in proximity. Similarly, someone on social media might be more likely to see a business’ post if they are closer to it than competitors.

Regularly posting also keeps you in close conversation with your audience. Knowing what times people are most likely to react to your posts and what content people react to not only leads to better engagement but can stimulate organic reach as well.

Since the ideal mix of platforms is different for every brand, we recommend continually testing different kinds of content and messaging to find what resonates most with your audience. We also recommend ongoing monitoring because social platforms like Facebook and Instagram continuously test new features, tweaking their algorithms to keep their audiences engaged longer.

Community Engagement

Consumers have increasingly held brands, especially large international ones, to high standards of corporate responsibility—and for good reason. When people see that your brand is part of the community and doing good, then they want to spend their dollars with it. Younger audiences especially are very community-minded and want to do business with someone in the community that is making an impact.

It’s critically important from a franchise perspective to localize your brand because being a franchisee is an inherently entrepreneurial venture full of active community involvement. From sponsoring your local Little League baseball team to giving your employees a day to volunteer at the community food bank, there are multiple opportunities to showcase your businesses’ involvement and commitment. This investment in awareness pays for itself as people wear your brand on their shirt, mug, or anything else that has high visibility and creates long-term recognition.

It’s Time to Go Local

If your presence is not distinctly felt and valued in the community, then consumers will increasingly take their business to other small, independent stores in their immediate neighborhood. This consumer interest in nurturing local business is here to stay, so the strategies we’ve provided can be executed cost-effectively on a regional, market, or individual store level. Now it’s time to start planting your brand in the hearts of mindful consumers.

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